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Pine mouth mystery solved

Cause of pine nuts bitter aftertaste revealed

Which? discovers ‘Pine mouth’ is caused by unscrupulous producers

Pine nuts

Following discussions with the European Commission, Which? has learnt that ‘pine mouth’ is likely to have been caused by unscrupulous producers in China.

A European Commission health and consumer policy spokesperson told us: ‘The most plausible cause would be the mixing of edible pine nuts (Pinus Koraiensis/Pinus Cedar) with inedible pine nuts (Pinus Armandi). 

‘This would have taken place during the 2008/09 season, when there was a temporary shortage and prices were high. Since November 2009, measures have been put in place in China to ensure that such mixing no longer takes place.’

A bitter taste 

Pine mouth is a bitter, metallic aftertaste caused by the consumption of pine nuts. In some cases it can lead to nausea and stomach problems. 

We first heard about pine mouth through one of our members, but after our news story in August’s Which? Magazine we received hundreds of letters and emails from sufferers. 

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Member’s like Adrian Hood, who told us about their bad experiences, also noted a lack of response from both the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the supermarkets when they raised their concerns. 

The power of complaint

When we spoke to supermarkets and the FSA , we were repeatedly told that they had only had a few complaints, and hadn’t deemed the issue serious enough.Tell us what you think about this and join in the debate here.

Any issue relating to food safety should be brought to the attention of the FSA. local Trading Standards officers and Which?. 

If you’ve fallen foul of pine mouth and would like your case recorded, email toxicology@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk with details of the pine nuts and the length of time you suffered the bitter taste.

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